Imperial Gothic


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Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire, 1840-1870

G. A. Bremner

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The Gothic Revival movement in architecture was intimately entwined with 18th- and 19th-century British cultural politics. By the middle of the 19th century, architects and theorists had transformed the movement into a serious scholarly endeavor, connecting it to notions of propriety and “truth,” particularly in the domain of religious architecture. Simultaneously, reform within the Church of England had worked to widen the aesthetic and liturgical appeal of “correct” gothic forms. Coinciding with these developments, both architectural and religious, was the continued expansion of Britain’s empire, including a renewed urgency by the English Church to extend its mission beyond the British Isles.

In this groundbreaking new study, G. A. Bremner traces the global reach and influence of the Gothic Revival throughout Britain’s empire during these crucial decades. Focusing on religious buildings, he examines the reinvigoration of the Church of England’s colonial and missionary agenda and its relationship to the rise of Anglican ecclesiology, revealing the extraordinary nature and extent of building activity that occurred across the British world.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

G. A. Bremner is senior lecturer in architectural history at the University of Edinburgh.

"[An] extraordinary book. . .Prof Bremner is the first architectural historian to try to encompass the subject in a single volume, as its geographical sweep is vast. . . As he moves from the South African veld to the Canadaian plains and from the city streets of Dublin to the palm groves of Honolulu, he takes a refreshingly independent approach to the imperial enterprise."—Michael Hall, Country Life
"This sumptuous coffee table book. . .includes fascinating reproductions of plans, paintings, maps and architectural details. But it's the story of the Gothic Revival movement and the broader sweep of British cultural and imperial politics in the 19th century that makes the book special."—William Yeoman, West Australian

“Alex Bremner is a young architectural historian who has already made a name for himself in Gothic-revival circles for his boundless energy – articles, conferences, symposia, prizes – and with this impressive first book he is launched as a major scholar. He describes the spread of the 'true' Puginite Gothic revival across almost the whole of the world at the hands of dedicated Tractarians and ecclesiologists with illustrations by many wonderful new photographs and contemporary views.”—Timothy Brittain-Catlin, The Tablet

“[A] opus magnum...170,000-words long, illustrated with some 400 photographs, and the result of many miles of arduous travel. It really is an achievement. Readers will feel that they, too, have achieved something by the end of it; for they will have been given a new way of seeing familiar buildings – and not just those that they encounter abroad.”—Revd Dr William Whyte, Church Times

“Although wide in scope and rich in scholarly detail, Bremner remains focused and easy to follow in his arguments. By considering the unique cultural context for each religious building, he sets a model for future scholarship in this field and demonstrates that the ideas behind the Gothic Revival Movement were not simply adapted or diluted for imperial export, but were actively developed across the globe.”—Francesca Herrick, Burlington Magazine

“He brings a great quantity of new information, and a magnificent collection of illustrations to illuminate it.”—Peter Howell, The Art Newspaper

“Bremner’s study is a rewarding and, while scholarly, an accessibly written one, which will do much to expand the knowledge and thinking of those with interests in ecclesiastical architectural history and the 19th-century ecclesiological movement in particular as well as in the history of the British empire.”—Paul Harron, Perspective

“This splendid work superbly illustrates and describes churches created in the cause of global Anglicanism. ‘Groundbreaking book’ is an over-used term, but that it what this is: a beautiful reminder of the high-minded aspirations of what was once considered to be not an ignoble undertaking.”—James Stevens Curl, Times Higher Education Supplement

“It’s a high quality publication with the usual Yale flair for design and illustration, its sheer bulk is impressive at nearly 500 pages, and its tightly focused chapters lucidly reveal the global Gothic Revival over a brief but important span of Victorian decades. This is, however, not what makes it a great book. Its real achievement is in its insistence that British architectural research must change if it is to truly revolutionise understandings of globalised modern cultures and their interaction. Showing how colonial architecture is both a ‘symbol and mechanism for societal identity’, Bremner’s intricate research uncovers dynamics of architectural design and religious patronage within the smallest outpost and the most ambitious of cathedrals.”—Architectural Review

“Bremner’s Imperial Gothic provides a most substantial enrichment to our knowledge of early and mid-Victorian church architecture.”—Stefan Muthesius, The Victorian

'This publication rightly celebrates and puts into its broader historical context the wealth of Victorian ecclesiastical Gothic. It is poignant that its publication comes just as one of the best examples has been lost forever after a major earthquake. Bremner writes of G.G. Scott’s and B. W. Mountfort’s Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand (1862–1904) as ‘... among the most perfect symbols of the reach and ambition of the Anglican confession worldwide’. This book now forms a worthy part of its memorial.'—Clare Sorenson, Architectural Heritage

'Imperial Gothic is the first sustained and serious study of British colonial church architecture since Basil Clarke’s Anglican Cathedrals Outside the British Isles (1958). As such it breaks new ground in the scholarship of nineteenth century architecture, providing a magisterial survey of Anglican architecture in British colonies that is truly global in reach. . . The scope of the research in evidence here is astonishing and it is testament to the author’s command of the material that the book is so well structured: at close to 400 pages, it is a weighty monograph, but is consistently engaging and finely poised in both its prose and structure and enhanced enormously by bot the range and quality of its illustrations.'—Paul Dobraszczyk, Visual Culture in Britain

'Imperial Gothic is architectural history at its best: a humane, brilliantly researched and gracefully written account of an extraordinarily complex chapter in the history of ideas.'—Michael J Lewis, First Things

“A magisterial survey . . . Imperial Gothic is formidable for the sheer breadth and scope that it introduces to the study of architectural history.”—Zirwat Chowdhury, Marginalia Review of Books

‘Nothing like this book has been attempted before, and it will enthral historians of colonial society and culture, as well as challenging scholars of British religion to widen their horizons.’—Gareth Atkins, Journal of Religious History.

‘[The] book impresses this reader for more reasons than a short review can accommodate… This is a large and complex book, but it is clearly written, very well illustrated and vastly rewarding, for Alex Bremner proves to be an omniscient guide to an unfamiliar subject.’—Graham Parry, Ecclesiology Today.

'Bremner has produced a substantial, magnificently documented and illustrated work that will be a keynote for future studies of architecture and empire.' —Tim Barringer, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

“In Imperial Gothic—wide-ranging in scope, lavishly adorned with nearly 400 images, and challenging in its marrying of architectural, religious, political, and cultural history in a global perspective-G. A. Bremner traces the coordinated effort by the Church of England in the mid-nineteenth century to spread the gospel and attendant membership in British civilization across the Empire.”— Margaret M. Grubiak, Victorian Studies
Winner of the 2013 Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.
Shortlisted for the 2013 Whitfield Prize sponsored by the Royal Historical Society.

Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize for books published in 2013 in the Single Author after 1800 category.

Winner of the 2014 William MB Berger Prize for British Art History sponsored by the British Art Journal in association with the Berger Collection Education Trust of Denver, Colorado
ISBN: 9780300187038
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
364 pages, 8 1/4 x 11
80 color + 285 b/w illus.
Building Greater Britain

Architecture, Imperialism, and the Edwardian Baroque Revival, 1885 - 1920

G. A. Bremner

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